Things changed for me back in March of this year. Without warning and without my permission, a few of my challenges kicked into TBI Overdrive.
Overnight, the volume of my tinnitus doubled. Say goodbye to silence—strike that. I said goodbye to silence back in 2010. My own traumatic brain injury left me with ears that have not stopped ringing in years. What had slowly become tolerable became unfathomable. At the same time, my “ice pick headaches” also came back with a vengeance.
Presto-chango, get used to a new TBI reality.
My wife Sarah and I sought out a new neurologist. Our past experiences with neurologists were not very positive. Early on, a well-intentioned one let me know that I would be back to 100% within a few months after my accident. A few months later, he said that recovery “might” take up to five years, but not to worry, I would indeed be back to my pre-accident self before I knew it.
Don’t forget to pay the receptionist on the way out.
Five years have come and gone, and challenges still abound. I am not embittered or even angry. Anger is a barrier to forward progress. This is what life threw at me. I just need to play this hand as best I can. I’m reasonably happy and reasonably healthy. Who can ask for more?
Yeah, I have a TBI, but it could have been worse. There is always someone worse off.
When the new challenges surfaced back in March, my wife and I visited a new neurologist’s office. Frankly, we were both quite excited. He came highly recommended, and his credentials spoke of someone familiar with brain injury. Five years in the realm of All Things Concussion is a veritable lifetime. Science has revealed more, new treatment protocols have been developed, and times have changed.
It took a few minutes to go over my medical history as we sat in his exam room. He took a few notes, listened to our story, took a few more notes, and asked a question or two.
He then looked us square in the eyes and uttered four words.
“I can fix you.”
He went on to go over a few of my symptoms. My tinnitus, he suspected, was caused by taking Naproxen. My brain fog and cognitive challenges were caused by a possible sleep disorder and a low level of Vitamin D.
“I can fix you.”
And I drank the Kool-Aid. For the next few days, I lived in the reality that I might just be coming home, that we could put all this TBI stuff behind us, that I was going to wake up, stretch out, shrug it all off, and simply continue my life where I had left off in 2010. Bells would ring, angels would sing, and life would again be free and easy. Hail and hallelujah, this difficult chapter would pass.
C’mon, how could I not get excited? To say that life has been hard for us over the last few years would be an epic understatement. In my shoes, you’d be excited too!
I dropped Naproxen from my life. And the ringing remained unchanged. My sleep study came and went. As I pen this, I still wait to hear back from someone. I was told the morning after that “if” there was a sleep abnormality, it was minor at best.
To his credit, boosting my Vitamin D seems to have alleviated much of my brain-fog. Thank goodness for not-so-small miracles.
“I can fix you.”
“You will be back to 100% within a few months.”
“By five years, you’ll be normal again.”
I don’t think that these are intentional misstatements by those charged with our care. In fact, they most likely believe what they are saying.
But the reality is this: No one can predict the outcome of life with a traumatic brain injury.
If you’ve seen one brain injury, you’ve seen one brain injury.
After the ether had worn off from my last visit, I came to realize that I might see a bit of relief from a couple of my challenges, but that my fate would be forever intertwined with traumatic brain injury. The pendulum did what it was supposed to do – it settled back in the middle.
You would think that I would be a bit less likely to get so excited about the prospect of being “fixed,” based on my last experience. But hope is what hope is. If I get cut, I bleed hope. Go on—I dare you to find fault in that.
Perhaps the next time, when a young, up-and-coming doctor makes a lofty promise, my feet will stay planted on the ground.
Then again, I might just get excited and quietly hope that perhaps something can be done.
You can count on one thing – I will most certainly write about it. By doing so, others find that they are not alone, that we share many of the same challenges, and that by sticking together as a TBI family, we can get through this together.